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Expedia Go Green

Expedia’s new Go Green landing page says, “We believe that travel is the best way to bridge boundaries, broaden perspectives, and increase our understanding of the world around us – but we also know that a destination’s popularity can put it at risk.”

“Expedia is committed to creating sustainable travel initiatives that address environmental and social concerns – and that are easy to use. You can make a big difference in the places you visit with just a few small steps. Carbon offsetting and green hotels are just the beginning…”

Genuinely Green or is it All Just Greenwash?

Expedia offer tips for responsible travel and advice on how travellers can reduce their carbon footprint but their choice of green hotels is dubious, to say the least. While their statement says the criteria used for inclusion on to the green hotels list must comply with existing certification programs that best match the Global Baseline for Sustainable Tourism Criteria, most of the hotels on the list fail to offer any details of their eco credentials.

I checked out the very first option on the list, The Langham Hotel in Melbourne, which I happen to know. It is a sumptuously luxurious hotel but doesn’t have a green bone in its body, or should I say a green brick in its building; even The Langham’s own website fails to list a single green credential, so how has it attained sustainable listing? I then checked a number of other hotels on the list and while half of them are eco-friendly in some way the rest aren’t.

When I book a hotel I want to know exactly what they do environmentally-wise and would expect Expedia to pay more attention to the details if they are to be taken seriously in ecotourism circles.

Expedia do however state that “this is just the beginning.” Well, I hope so because at the minute the whole thing reeks of greenwash.

Orbitz Eco-tourism

Orbitz’s ecotourism section features hotels within America only so it’s impossible to review their system as thoroughly as I’m not as familiar with their hotels.

Their eco-friendly hotel criteria is listed prominently on the main ecotourism page so offers potential travellers more of an insight into what the ratings are based on. Not every hotel fitted all the criteria and some fitted only one which again raised suspicion; how can a hotel be classed as eco-friendly just because it uses energy-saving light bulbs? If that’s all a hotel needs to qualify then realistically nearly every hotel in the world would could be called eco-friendly.

Orbitz Eco-Friendly Hotel Criteria

* Use a natural source of energy (wind, water, solar, bio-fuel)
* Use environmentally-friendly and safe products (detergents for linens, soaps, shampoos, etc.)
* Contribute $$ from each hotel reservation to an environmental organization
* Use of energy conserving devices (ie. eco-friendly light fixtures/bulbs triggered by motion detectors, water-saving devices, water filtration systems and air filtration/purifiers)
* Earned the ENERGY STAR® – a national mark of excellence in energy efficiency and carbon performance. To qualify for the Energy Star rating buildings have to demonstrate they use nearly 40 percent less energy than average buildings and emit 35 percent less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, offering a significantly smaller carbon footprint.


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Greenbuild 2007

Leonardo Academy announced last week during the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) Annual Greenbuild International Conference & Exposition that this event is offsetting its emissions under Leonardo Academy's Cleaner and Greener® Program which is dedicated to reducing and offsetting emissions to improve health and climate. For the sixth consecutive year, Leonardo Academy has donated its Cleaner and Greener® services to the USGBC for calculating emissions, gathering emission offsets, and certifying the level of offsets achieved. For this year's conference in Chicago, IL, the current emission offsets donated have offset 100 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions and average of 50 percent of each of the other types of emissions from based on projected Greenbuild attendance and energy use.

The Cleaner and Greener® Program certifies organizations and events for offsetting emissions from energy use. This program addresses emissions that impact both human health and climate. Michael Arny, President of Leonardo Academy, said, "Reducing and offsetting emissions that affect climate and health is a critical pert of reducing our environmental impacts and everyone can follow the U.S. Green building Council's Greenbuild example in taking action."

Projected Greenbuild energy use and emissions were prepared by Leonardo Academy. Leonardo Academy is gathering donations of emissions offsets from both companies and individual donors to offset Greenbuild emissions. Large emission reduction donors for this event are: Milliken & Company, Wind Current, and Sterling Planet. Greenbuild attendees also have the opportunity to offset their personal attendance emissions through charitable contributions toward the purchase of emission offsets. Offset Sources donated through Cleaner and Greener to offset Conference emissions:

Milliken -- Donated more than 25 million pounds of carbon dioxide sequestration credits from its forests, enough to offset 100% of the carbon dioxide emissions generated by Greenbuild 2007 (www.sustainablecarpet.com),

WindCurrent -- Donated 500,000 kWh of Green-e certified wind renewable energy credits sourced from Midwestern wind farms (www.windcurrent.com),

Sterling Planet -- Donated 200,000 kWh of Green-e certified biomass and wind-generated renewable energy credits (www.sterlingplanet.com).

Donated emission offsets will be permanently retired to offset the carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NOx), and mercury (Hg) emissions from the conference facilities, travel, meals, lodging, utilities, and other potential energy use connected to the conference. The pre-event estimates of the event emissions and offset achievements are posted on Leonardo Academy's Cleaner and Greener® website (www.cleanerandgreener.org). Following Greenbuild, the emissions and offset achievements will be updated to include the actual event attendance and additional donations made during the event. Starting with Greenbuild 2007 events that are Cleaner and Greener® Certified will have emissions and offsets quantified using methodology referencing the LEO 5000-2001 Draft American National Standard for Trial Use on Emission Inventories, Offsets and Emission Reductions, the EPA Climate Challenge and USGBC credit interpretations on emissions and emission offsets.

Michael Arny said, "There is an important new idea for all of us to think about in addressing climate change. This idea is that keeping carbon sequestered in existing forests is just as important for total carbon sequestered in forests as sequestering carbon in newly planted forests. The math is simple: the carbon sequestered in Preserved forests, plus Maintained working forest, plus newly planted forests = Total Carbon Sequestered!"

Top green hotels by T&L

A complete list of hotels with the highest environmental standards appears in the November issue of the magazine that is published by American Express Publishing Corp.

Here is a list of their top 10:

* Spice Island Beach Resort, Grenada

The property's water is solar-heated, the bulbs are energy-saving compact fluorescent, and the pool is treated with salt instead of chlorine.

* Sonveva Fushi Resort & Six Senses Spa, Maldives

This collection of luxury villas has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half by next year and achieve carbon neutrality by 2010.

* Tiamo, Bahamas

This solar-powered 11-bungalow hideaway uses less electricity a month than an average U.S. household. It also has a ban on unsustainably harvested seafood and a program to host visiting biologists.

* Whitepod, Switzerland

The geodesic domes at Whitepod's camp may be electricity-free, but they keep things cozy with plush organic bedding, sheepskin throws, and fireplaces fueled with sustainable harvested wood.

* Devil's Thumb Ranch, Colorado

With 16 airy timber cabins and a soon-to-open lodge, each heated and cooled entirely with fireplaces, only one percent of this 5,000 acre ranch has been developed, leaving the rest free for guests -- and elk, moose, bears, and beavers -- to roam.

* Chumbe Island Coral Park, Zanzibar, Tanzania

Designated 13 years ago as Tanzania's first managed marine protected area, the park is one of the region's most diverse reefs. A ranger program educates locals about marine ecology and prevents illegal fishing, while Chumbe's rooftop rainwater-collection system and solar-powered lights keep the resort in harmony with nature.

* Adrere Amellal, Egypt

As part of the Siwa Sustainable Development Initiative, the hotel helps to fund and support numerous community projects, including measures designed to encourage sustainable farming.

* Campi Ya Kanzi, Kenya

The lodge and its foundation employ 160 tribespeople and make a daily $40-per-guest donation to support new schools, scholarships and compensation payments to Masai for lost cattle.

* Hotel Mocking Bird Hill, Jamaica

The hotel relies almost exclusively on local suppliers, such as the women's group that transforms discarded paper into stationery for guests. Water is collected in rain tanks, laundry is dried in the sun, and the resort's ENOUGH program raises money and supplies for island schools.

* Tenuta Di Spannocchia, Siena, Italy

This 1,100-acre organic estate of managed forests, vegetable gardens and hiking trails is dedicated to preserving the region's cultural and agricultural legacy.

Survey Results

'Seventy-five percent of survey respondents said it is important to them that the hotel where they stay follows 'green practices,' and those surveyed are more than willing to do their part,' said David McAleese, CEO of A Closer Look. 'In recent years, Americans have become more environmentally aware, and thus have changed their behavior and the expectations of businesses they support.'

The majority of respondents are happy to reuse towels during part of their stay and say hotels could be doing more to help the environment. Many hotels have long been offering the option of reusing towels during a guest's stay, and 69% of people interviewed said they were given the option during their most recent hotel stay. Of those who were offered the option of reusing towels, 40% reused their towels for one day, 24% reused them for two or more days and 19% reused some of the towels and requested replacement of the rest. Only 16% of respondents said they requested new towels daily.

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Green Travel misses the boat

But only a few hotels in the United States are certified as "green" by the U.S. Green Building Council. None of the big hotel chains, cruise lines or tour operators has published a thorough corporate responsibility report, with metrics, goals and timetable for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.

And while the "eco-travel" category is growing fast, no one can tell you with any certainty just what that means.

What's more, while the industry creates jobs and helps alleviate poverty, critics say that industry workers in the developing world are underpaid, and that most of the tourism dollars generated in poor countries leave anyway. That's because visitors tend to favor western-run hotels, western-owned rental car agencies, and western-made products like Coca-Cola over local businesses.

"The tourism industry lags way, way behind other industries when it comes to corporate social responsibility," said Patricia Barnett, director of Tourism Concern, a British advocacy group.

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